Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Honduras Keeps Home Match Despite Unrest

An ousted president holed up in the Brazilian embassy?

A country being run by the leaders of a coup?

Cops taking over a pro-opposition radio station?

Not enough to convince FIFA to move a World Cup qualifying match out of Honduras.

The Oct. 10 match with the United States is crucial to Honduras's hopes of qualifying for the World Cup for only the second time in the country's history. Honduras is 4-0 at home in the final round of Concacaf qualifying, and losing its fifth and final home game -- to a neutral site or even to the U.S. -- would represent a disadvantage for the Central American nation's team.

To be sure, FIFA is in a delicate position.

--By saying the match won't be moved, FIFA runs the risk of appearing to legitimize the current government. Which isn't popular in most of the rest of Latin America. FIFA probably doesn't care who's in charge, but saying the Honduras match vs. the U.S. at San Pedro Sula will go on, that it's business as usual ... seems to suggest a tilt toward the current government, which took power via a coup.

--However, if FIFA were to move the match out of Honduras it might be seen as favoritism toward the U.S., which is a huge and lucrative and growing market for soccer. Certainly, soccer's global marketers would rather see the U.S. team -- representing 300 million people and the planet's biggest economy -- at South Africa in 2010 than Honduras's. And having Honduras play the U.S. anywhere but inside Honduras presumably would hurt Honduras and help the U.S.

Note the conditional tone in the FIFA statement. It "reserves the right to revisit the issue" should conditions deteriorate. Violence in the streets probably would qualify as a condition for revisiting the issue.

Certainly, the country isn't a tableau of peace and calm, as the latest news story out of Teguchigalpa indicates. Political wrangling is ongoing.

At the end of the day, FIFA just wants its schedule to go off as scheduled. So do most fans.

FIFA, like the International Olympic Committee, like any other world sports body, prefers to stay out of political issues. Unless it absolutely cannot. It would be nice to say FIFA wants peace ... but mostly it wants stability.

The next week or so should determine whether what is going on in Honduras can be ignored long enough to get in an international soccer match. Ultimately, soccer isn't bigger than life; it just seems like it sometimes.

1 comment:

  1. They should just play the match at the Rose Bowl. There would be just as many Honduran fans and the USMNT wouldn't be traveling into a third-world regime coup.